Quick access:

Go directly to content (Alt 1)Go directly to second-level navigation (Alt 3)Go directly to first-level navigation (Alt 2)
Public Interest Design LabPhoto (detail): © Robert Benson Photography

Public Interest Design Lab

In 2021, Washington, D.C. is at the epicenter of threats to civil society and to our shared humanity. Recent events have also demonstrated how planning and design contribute to conditions of injustice just as they can and must be used to restore justice to our cities. The mission of our collaborative Public Interest Design LAB is to use design to strengthen the social bonds that are vital to a thriving, equitable city, and to support the development of design practitioners from many fields confronting the most urgent issues in their communities.

Open Call For Applications

The Public Interest Design LAB is a fellowship created by the Goethe-Institut and the DC Public Library that will invite up to six D.C.-based designers in various fields who work closely with social movements and local community-based organizations. The fellowship will support development of existing projects that confront inequities and foster connectivity through community-based design. Priority is placed on projects that will benefit from international exchange and a broadening of professional networks. The deadline for the Public Interest Design LAB fellowship has been extended to Monday, April 5th.
The application website has been updated with answers to FAQs. This fellowship will begin in mid-May, 2021.

The fellowship is informed by three pillars of a long-standing collaboration between the DC Public Library and the Goethe-Institut: cultural exchange, increasing access to educational resources, and a philosophical commitment to design for the public good. 

The fellowship will be interdisciplinary, collaborative, and tailored to the needs of individual participants and their projects. Practitioners from all creative fields with a desire to deepen their work with D.C. communities are encouraged to apply. 

Open Call 2021 PDF

Apply Here

  • Name, Address, Phone, Email Address, and (optional) Website of applicant
  • Project Title
  • Project Summary (150 word limit)
  • Community Engagement Background (1-2 paragraphs / 200 word limit): In one to two paragraphs, describe the training and experiences that prepare you for designing for and with communities, and/or for the public benefit.
  • Project Proposal (250-500 words): Tell us about the community-based design project that you would like to develop further during your fellowship. In a few paragraphs, please describe a challenge that you seek to address through your work with social movements and/or community-based organization(s), as well as how this work stands to benefit from this fellowship. Competitive proposals will explain how your existing design practice/project will be impacted by the opportunity for networking, expert feedback, public engagement and increased local and international exposure. Please include details on what you most need help with during the 9 month fellowship period, what benefits the project will have for the community, and what near- and long-term steps you envision for this work.
  • Work Samples, in a format that suits the work (CHOOSE ONE: Five (5) JPG images; Five pages text and image OR three to five pages text, in PDF format; up to 5 minutes of audio or video (.wav, .mp3, .mp4, or .mov files)
  • Work Sample List (numbered, with succinct description, in PDF format)
  • Three references of people familiar with your work, with phone and email address
  • Project Budget (PDF): Funds may be used for direct and indirect costs of concept development, and compensating community partners. Uses may include, but are not limited to: Support for intellectual labor, access to resources, hourly research assistance, honoraria for community members, supplies and equipment, archival duplication costs, research related services such as transcription or access costs.
  • Resume or CV
  • Eligibility: This fellowship is open to all artists, designers, and art/design teams aged 18 or older. While US citizenship is not required, the lead artist/designer must have a social security number or Federal Tax ID (EIN) in order to receive payment
Spring/Summer: Research & Development
  • At least three online trainings with invited experts tailored to fellows’ proposals
  • Workshop in/with public spaces in D.C.
  • Local, national and international networking opportunities
  • Technical assistance through special collections reference services, optional in-person convenings, and online resources
  • Opportunities for peer networking and resource-sharing

Fall/Winter: Share-out
  • Work-in progress talk
  • Temporary installations at library locations (TBD) and/or inclusion in online dossier
  • Constructive feedback from invited experts
Fellows will each receive:
  • Stipend of $6,000, to support direct and indirect costs of concept development, and compensating community partners. The stipend will be delivered in two installments. The stipend is yours to use in whatever way you feel most valuable. For evaluation purposes, we will ask you to provide a summary of how funds were used
  • Support from DC Public Library, including expertise and resources housed in The Labs and The People’s Archive, among other departments
  • Featured content on the Goethe-Institut web dossier
  • Online training sessions with local and international leading designers
  • Opportunities to present work in progress to invited expert(s), self-selected by the fellow from provided list
Fellows are expected to, over the course of nine months:
  • Work with community partner(s) throughout the process
  • Check in regularly with the Program Manager to facilitate the work
  • Participate in at least three virtual workshops and other possibilities for engagement with international network
  • Participate in one public space workshop in DC (TBD)
  • Attend 3-5 virtual check-ins with fellows to discuss the progress of your work and reflect on effective practices in community-based design
  • Make one presentation of their work to an invited audience in a public location TBD in Fall 2021
  • One piece of social media content (i.e. instagram takeover, Twitter engagement, Facebook Live event) used on Goethe-Institut and DC Public Library social media and featured in an online dossier
  • In coordination with the project team, complete an exit assessment for your project, including a summary statement regarding project spending
  • Keep the project team informed of any publicity efforts or coverage in outside media related to your project
  • Provide a high quality photo of yourself to accompany your Project Summary on the online dossier
Priority will be given to proposals that 
  • Reveal new possibilities for social impact design
  • Affirm and amplify local perspectives
  • Align with the three pillars of our institutional partnership: cultural exchange, increasing access to educational resources, and design for the public good
  • Show a commitment to participation in the program and willingness to implement ideas that result from interdisciplinary learning and collaboration
  • Support institutional values of diversity, equity, and inclusion

About the DC Public Library

The District of Columbia Public Library is a vibrant center of activity for residents and visitors in the nation’s capital. The library provides environments that invite reading, learning and community discussion and equips people to learn all their lives, to embrace diversity and to build a thriving city. We are proud to be a recognized force in the community for engaging the mind, expanding opportunities and elevating the quality of life. DC Public Library has 25 locations in every Ward of the city, including the recently modernized Martin Luther King Jr. (Central) Memorial Library, a Mies van der Rohe building that has been thoughtfully renovated by Mecanoo Architecten (Netherlands) and OTJ Architects (Washington, DC).

The People’s Archive, DC Public Library’s repository for historic photographs, maps and ephemera, connects residents to unique resources that illustrate the District of Columbia’s local history and culture. 

The Labs at DC Public Library are innovative, collaborative, and educational spaces containing tools and resources that help District residents gain valuable skills for personal and workforce development. The Labs at DC Public Library consists of three primary programs: the Fab Lab, the Studio Lab, and the Memory Lab. All three programs are housed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

The fellowship is informed by three pillars of a long-standing collaboration between the DC Public Library and the Goethe-Institut: cultural exchange, increasing access to educational resources, and a philosophical commitment to design for the public good. The project is made possible by the generous support of the Goethe-Institut and the DC Public Library Foundation. 

About the Goethe-Institut

The Goethe-Institut is the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany with a global reach. With 157 institutes in 98 countries, it promotes knowledge of German abroad, encourages international cultural exchange and conveys an image of contemporary Germany. Our cultural and educational programs encourage intercultural dialogue and enable cultural involvement. With our network of Goethe-Instituts, Goethe Centers, Pop-Ups, cultural societies, we are partners for all who actively engage with Germany and its culture, working independently and without political ties. 


Any questions? Please contact us on:

Our partner


Logo DC Public Library


Logo Friends of the Goethe-Institut